“Wake up, address the thorny issues raised”: Catholic Archbishop to Kenya’s Govt at “Saba Saba” Sunday Youth Convention

Archbishop Philip Anyolo of Nairobi Archdiocese in Kenya. Credit: Nairobi Archdiocese

Archbishop Philip Anyolo Subira of the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi (ADN) in Kenya has reiterated the appeal by other Kenyan faith leaders in support of the Generation Z (Gen Z)-led peaceful protests that have put President William Samoei Ruto-led government on notice with additional concerns after successfully opposing the ontroversial Finance Bill 2024.

Addressing Catholic youths, who responded to the call to gather on “Saba-Saba” Sunday at the Holy Family Minor Basilica of his Metropolitan See, Archbishop Anyolo described the youth-led protests as a “wakeup call” to government to pay keen attention to the needs of the citizens.

In Kenya, “Saba Saba”, a Swahili expression for “seven seven” that refers to July 7, is remembered as the day when nationwide protests against one-party dictatorship and demands for free elections were carried out.  

The day was formed on 7 July 1990, when Kenyans, including “progressive nationalist elements and a newer generation of democracy activists”, took to the streets in a move that eventually forced then-President Daniel Arap Moi to repeal Section 2A of the Constitution, making Kenya a multi-party country.  

On July 7, “Saba Saba” Sunday, Kenya’s ADN Chaplaincy gathered members of the Youth Serving Christ (YSC) and Young Catholic Adults (YCA) for Holy Mass, and thereafter, a forum for them to join other Kenyan youths to voice grievances against the government.


In his message to the Catholic youths who gathered at Holy Family Basilica, Archbishop Anyolo reflected on St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians and urged the government to listen to the young people whom he said have expressed their grievances both on the streets through protests and on social media.

“To our leaders when you cannot face the people who elected you, when you cannot listen to them, when you have to move away because they can no longer receive you, I don’t know if there is a greater wakeup call!! Wake up leaders!!,” he said, alluding to the justifiable fear of a section of Kenyan legislators who had voted “yes” for the controversial Finance Bill to return to their respective constituencies.

The Kenyan Catholic Archbishop insisted, “For the sake of our young people, for the sake of our country, for God’s sake, wake up and let’s get to work! Further, I implore the government to address the thorny issues raised.”

The July 7 Catholic youth convention at Holy Family Minor Basilica follows the (Gen Z)-led protests, first against the controversial Finance Bill 2024, and now, after President Ruto succumbed to mounting public pressure and declined to assent to the Bill, against corruption, the high cost of living, and unemployment among other demands.

Initially peaceful, the demonstrations that started on June 18, the day the Bill was tabled in Kenya’s parliament for debate, later turned violent, with Kenyan police seen opening fire on protesters, resulting in dozens of deaths and the destruction of property. 

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In his July 7 message, Archbishop Anyolo reiterated the grievances that Kenyan youths are spearheading.

The youths, he said, want the government “to be intentional about what to do and what changes to make so that we never come back here.”

“They’re saying that status-quo or empty promises will not silence them!! They’re saying that they are not willing to be intimidated or silenced by handouts; they’re refusing to be intimidated into silence,” the Local Ordinary of ADN said.

The Kenyan Archbishop recognized the constitutionality of the youth-led peaceful protests and condemned those he said have “hijacked” the demonstrations with looting and property destruction.

“We wish to condemn those who have taken over/hijacked the peaceful protest to cause loss of lives, loss of property, and various other damages and losses,” he said, adding, “As a country as a people, as a democracy, we have to grow to the point where protests don’t have to cause damages to make an impact.”


Archbishop Anyolo continued, “Based on the sentiments and witnesses of many who joined them on the streets these young people can actually achieve a peaceful protest.”

He went on to laud Kenyan youths for going beyond their respective tribes and urged Kenyans to foster unity based “on common struggle for the common good, our common humanity and our common identity as Kenyans.”

All the young people participating in the protests “care for is that we all hold Kenya as more important than our tribal affiliations and personal agendas.”

The youths, he said, “are asking us to be selfless, to think of the other as much as we think of self, asking that we go beyond those many boundaries and titles that separate us.”

Archbishop Anyolo decried reported cases of abductions, saying, “It is unfortunate and highly unacceptable that young people are being abducted for talking, for asking to be heard and demanding that leaders do what is actually their sacred mandate which they took by oath when they took offices!”

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He said that the blood of those who died during the protests should “be a reason to make the government drop the hard-line position and consider making significant changes in the way of running the nation.”

The Catholic Church leader called upon Kenyan legislatures to listen to the people they represent, striving to reach “a reasonable balance between revenue and expenditure.”

“Our youths are at a stage of shattered dreams and hopelessness,” he lamented, adding, “This state of affairs if it goes unchecked will transform into a gigantic problem that has a possibility of affecting our country negatively.”

“Development cannot be enough reason to oppress people’s lives and render them miserable. Listen to all these voices. Let’s have budget cuts; let’s have priorities; let’s have professionalism; let’s ensure service delivery, that the systems meant to serve the Kenyan people are working,” Archbishop Anyolo said on July 7.

He described Kenyans are “hardworking ... very resilient and patient as well,” adding that citizens of the East African nation want elected leaders to “do for them what you are mandated to do by the constitution.”

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.